DfE adds ‘extreme heat’ to school emergency planning guidance

After a scorching summer, the DfE has added 'extreme heat' to its list of potential emergency scenarios schools should plan for

After a scorching summer, the DfE has added 'extreme heat' to its list of potential emergency scenarios schools should plan for

3 Oct 2022, 18:02

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Schools should prepare for “extreme heat” as part of emergency planning after this summer’s scorching temperatures, according to updated guidance.

Leaders are advised to ensure their emergency plan is “generic enough to cover a range of potential incidents” under the Department of Education (DfE) non-statutory guidance.

But a list of potential scenarios – which also includes bomb threats, fires and “significant” infectious disease incidents – was updated on Monday to include extreme heat as “severe weather”. Other examples include, flooding, storms or snow.

During the heatwave in mid-July this year, the Met Office issued an unprecedented red ‘extreme heat’ warning, while temperatures in the UK soared to a record breaking 40.3C.

In the emergency planning guidance, schools are advised to stay open “for as many children, pupils or students as possible” during “severe weather”.

“However, it might be necessary to close temporarily due to inaccessibility or risk of injury,” the document states. “You should do all you can to reopen as soon as possible.”

During this summer’s heatwave, the DfE advised against closures, but Schools Week analysis found that as many as 104 schools closed their doors on at least one day due to heat.

Other schools implemented makeshift measures including non-uniform days, keeping pupils inside at breaktime and finishing early in order to keep children cool.

At the time, then-education secretary James Cleverly said: “School is the best place for children and we are telling them not to close.”

While advising against closures in July, the DfE underlined the government’s heatwave plan guidance for teachers and other professionals in education and early years settings.

It noted that children were at increased risk of side effects including dehydration and heatstroke and advised measures including encouraging pupils to wear “loose, light-coloured clothing”.

The government was also forced to update after providing incorrect information to schools about heat exhaustion symptoms.

While guidance had outlined “hot, red and dry skin” as a potential symptom, the NHS advises that “excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin” was a sign of the condition.

Ofsted also came under scrutiny for its decision to continue with school inspections during the spate of extreme weather.

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  1. If I placed a thermometer on my skin on one of those days (in/near Milton Keynes) it showed a temperature of over 38 degrees Celsius.

    The last time I checked (and I think many of us *have* checked a great deal during the ascendancy of covid-19) 38+ degrees Celsius is consistent with a fever – and illness.

    Maybe my ear or under-tongue temperature was lower.

    As it was I checked neither and went into work (again), after a pay-freeze imposed by MPs who did not enter full secondary or primary school classrooms without a vaccine as myself and colleagues did.

    Yes, like you, I did my duty. However, like you, I also failed a psychology test with respect to being subjected to abusive conditions by those acting as pundits, from the safety of their homes on 80% pay in exchange for sitting watching Netflix,…